Tuesday, April 10, 2018

TV: The plodding and the scintillating

SYFY's KRYPTON is yet another attempt to imagine life before Superman -- thing is, previous show runners have done it so much better.

The new series takes place on the dying planet of Krypton where Clark Kent's Kal-el has yet to be born but his family already consists of Seg-el and Val-el.  Even without a Bag-el, the show's too cheesy for words.

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It's slow and plodding, poorly written and badly acted.

When we shared that take with a friend at SYFY, he replied back that we were missing the point of the show -- there's a point? -- and referred us to this "rave."  It's not really a rave of what's on the screen.  There's a great deal of excitement in the review -- over where the show might go -- including Superman's grandfather Seg-el traveling to the present or the future.  The closest to praise of what's currently airing is really just the point that KRYPTON is better than GOTHAM to which many reply back, "What's not better than GOTHAM?"

The show that started with over fourteen million viewers now regularly pulls in . . . less than three million.  In all of our travels around the country, speaking out against the wars, we've only ever met one person who felt the need to bring up and praise GOTHAM -- she was a 47-year-old LVN who watches it because her second husband does and her praise for it consisted of it being "not all bad" and her finding Ben McKenzie sexy.

We'll agree on the hotness of McKenzie but not on the "not all bad" judgment.  It's bad.  It's downright boring.  So is KRYPTON.  This notion that a key event requires a prequel will, we fear, end with some network fascinated by the prospect of HINDENBURG TRAVEL AGENCY, a show set in 1937 about people who sell tickets for the airship's final, deadly flight.  Nothing really happens in the TV show, people who will die just buy tickets from people who sell them but, like just about every other event, some network honcho swears it has built-in appeal and requires a prequel to truly tell the story.

Storytelling requires skill and artistry -- two elements missing in the SYFY show.  In fact, KRYPTON is the worst attempt at a pre-Superman story thus far.  1961's THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERBOY -- a one episode pilot starring Johnny Rockwell -- may not feature the state of the art special effects, but it featured an involving storyline.  A high school public speaking group has been assigned the topic of what their father's do for a speech.  Jimmie Drake gets up and says his father Fred Drake is a doorman for the local movie palace.  And that's it.  He then asks for permission to leave.  The teacher notes the class is almost over and, as everyone begins leaving, Lana Lang (Bunny Henning) tells Clark (Rockwell) that they should walk with Jimmie.  Holding hands, Lana and Clark catch up with him only to find Jimmie still upset and, pointing to his father across the street in a new costume, feel there's nothing worth noting about his father.  Lana argues that Fred raised Jimmie all by himself and that alone is an accomplishment.  At home, Jimmie will confess to his father that he had nothing to say in class and his father will tell him that they are going to get Jimmie through college and into a job he wants and, when that day comes, Fred will be proud.  Fred and the movie theater are being watched by three men -- a ringleader and his two underlings who will try to rob it.  When Superboy foils the robbery with the help of Fred, Jimmie sees his father in a different light.

That's a story.  You can follow it.  You can care about it.  It's miles ahead of any of the four episodes of KRYPTON we've thus seen.  (If you'd like to see THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERBOY, please note, AMAZON PRIME members can stream the episode for free.)  It's got plot points and characterizations and is grounded in something resembling reality.

BBC AMERICA's done story right with ORPHAN BLACK and does it again with their new series KILLING EVE.  Sandra Oh's wonderful as is Jodie Comer, but a great deal of the credit goes to Phoebe Waller-Bridge who's turned Luke Jennings novellas into strong television.

Sandra Oh's Eve is working for MI5 and is convinced that a serial killer is afoot and that a cover up's taking place.  She's smart but, at first, trailing Comer's Villanelle.  So much so, that Eve's superiors see her as the one responsible for Villanelle's hospital room massacre in the first episode and, as a result, fire her.  This just means she's off the Russian desk and now fronting a team tracking the serial killer.  In many ways, the show recalls the Debra Winger and Theresa Russell film noir BLACK WIDOW.

Eve is also part of a long line of female detectives in British TV series -- a line that includes Emma Peel, Tara King and Cathy Gale (THE AVENGERS), Miss Marple (AGATHA CHRISTIE'S MARPLE), Stella Gibson (THE FALL), Jane Tennison (PRIME SUSPECT), Susan Reinhardt (PREY), Vera Stanhope (VERA), Catherine Cawood (HAPPY VALLEY), Janet Scott and Rachel Bailey (SCOTT AND BAILEY), Kate Fleming and Roz Huntley (LINE OF DUTY), Mared Rhys (HINTERLAND), Ellie Miller (BROADCHURCH), Kate Ashurst and Emma Scribbins (MURDER IN SUBURBIA), Anna Travis (ABOVE SUSPICION), Hetty Wainthropp (HETTY WAINTHROPP INVESTIGATES), Clare Blake (THE COMMANDER), Agatha Raisin (AGATHA RAISN) and Rosemary Boxer and Laura Thyme (ROSEMARY AND THYME).

And KILLING EVE is a part of strong television.  In fact, it's so strong it may be the series that five time Emmy nominee Sandra Oh finally wins the award for.

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